Chozen-ji on Kahoʻolawe

Guided by the lunar calendar in February, which dictates the ideal time for planting, 16 members of Chozen-ji accessed the island of Kaho’olawe for environmental and cultural restoration over three days.

The visit to one of our most precious, albeit battered, main Hawaiian islands is to experience what living is like in a place made uninhabitable and unsustainable by man. It’s also an opportunity to experience, for a short while, living in a very Hawaiian style, ‘ohana setting away from most all of the trappings of modern life. Kaho‘olawe is both a cautionary tale of man’s ignorance and arrogance and an inspiring, ongoing experiment of what can be done to nurture and regrow a place and a people.

Surrounded by iron red, dusty earth, the group was directed by staff on how to dig and plant in a 77-year-old former bombing range that has been eroding since the introduction of goats and other ungulates in 1793 by Captain Vancouver. Native plant seedlings of ‘a’ali’i, ‘ohai shrub, wiliwili, halapepe and koa trees and kamanomano grasses found small patches of loose dirt along eroded crevices. Each team of one to two volunteers created a circumference of gathered rocks, then placed the groups of seedlings inside and surrounded each hopeful planting with mulch and a good dose of water. The work was hard under unforgiving sun with all striving to plant as many as possible in such a short amount of time.

Each day ended with a dip in the ocean, a fresh water rinse and a much appreciated dinner. While there was no “meal-by-candlelight”, there were the vibrant colors gifted to us by setting of the sun in the Kahikimoe (west). Under the darkness of night, vibrant stars danced to the sound of shakuhachi.

Chozen-ji and Kaho’olawe exist in common stories, conflicts, and convergences of people, place and purpose of sacred spaces. Both places provide training, skill building and teaching. Similar to the Dojo, Kaho’olawe’s lessons of Aloha ‘Aina are to be actively practiced in our everyday lives.

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